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Vie de Rousseau copie.jpg

Rousseau's life is at the same time very well known, from the version that the writer gave of it in his  Confessions , and full of gray areas. Biographers are still hesitating on the date of his stay in Besançon, or on that of his installation at Les Charmettes, with Mme de Warens. The issue of children is also still the subject of extensive debate.

It will only be a question here of giving a few important dates and suggesting some points of reference to our visitors. They will be able, to go a little further in the discovery of the life of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, to read one of the biographies which are authoritative today, namely: Raymond Trousson,  Jean-Jacques Rousseau , Paris, Gallimard, 2011. They will also be able to immerse themselves in the very fine work of Frédéric S. Eigeldinger and Raymond Trousson,  Jean-Jacques Rousseau from day to day , Paris, Champion, 1998.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, born June 28, 1712 in Geneva, is the son of a watchmaker, Isaac Rousseau. His mother died when he was born and he was raised by his aunt, Suzanne Rousseau, whom he affectionately called “aunt Suzon”. He spent his childhood and adolescence in the district of Saint-Gervais, then in Bossey, where he boarded with Pastor Lambercier, and finally again in Geneva, where he became an apprentice engraver. It was moreover to avoid mistreatment by his master that he left Geneva in March 1728. He was then barely sixteen years old.

There followed a long period of wanderings and travels which lasted until 1740, when Rousseau became, in Lyons, tutor to the children of M. de Mably. In the meantime, he will have converted to Catholicism in Turin (April 1728), will have spent a few wonderful years in Chambéry, at Les Charmettes, with Mme de Warens, whom he calls "Mom", and will above all have completed his training as an autodidact, with a marked predilection for music. Observations on modern writings  of the Abbé Desfontaines report, moreover, on February 1, 1743, of the  Dissertation on Modern Music . Rousseau then operates, two years later, several modifications in  The Princess of Navarre , who became  Les Fêtes de Ramire , and began to be recognized as a promising young musician. Diderot entrusts him with the musical articles of the Encyclopédie .

It was however in 1750, when the Academy of Dijon awarded him its prize for the  Discourse on the sciences and the arts , that Rousseau truly becomes a "writer". This first Discourse was followed, in 1755, by the  Discourse on the origin of inequality among men . The beginning of the decade was also fertile in musical events, from the Querelle des Bouffons, in which Rousseau took an active part (he thus published his famous Letter on French Music in 1753) to the presentation of the  Village diviner  before the king, at Fontainebleau, on October 18, 1752.

In 1756, Rousseau moved in with Madame d'Épinay, at the Hermitage: it was in this enchanting setting of the Montmorency forest that he wrote the first letters of  La Nouvelle Héloïse , now considered the greatest novel of the eighteenth century. After breaking up with Madame d'Épinay, Rousseau moved to Mont-Louis, in the very heart of Montmorency, and composed Émile and Du Contrat social . We come to 1762, a terrible year for Rousseau. The fate of Émile , condemned both in Paris and in Geneva, pushes him to flee: it is first Môtiers, then the island of Saint-Pierre and finally, after many peregrinations, England, where the philosopher Hume invited him. In the meantime have appeared the  Letters Written from the Mountain , in which Rousseau responds to the prosecutor Tronchin.

After his break with Hume, we find him in France, and more particularly in Paris, rue Plâtrière, where he settled with Thérèse Levasseur in 1770. It was on this date that he read, in several salons, the drafts of his  Confessions . Will follow the writing of the Dialogues and that, at the end of his life, of the  Reveries of the solitary walker , which end with the vision of Madame de Warens and an irretrievably lost happiness.

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